The era of the Old Republic is a dark and dangerous time, as Jedi Knights valiantly battle the Sith Lords and their ruthless armies. But the Sith have disturbing plans—and none more so than the fulfillment of Darth Scabrous’s fanatical dream, which is about to become nightmarish reality. [Goodreads]
Set in the time period known as the Old Republic, more than a thousand years before Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, author Joe Shreiber takes us to a Sith planet called Odacer-Faustin. The planet is home to a Sith Academy and we are treated to a glimpse of their training. Not surprisingly, the training is brutal and the dog-eat-dog attitude among students is what one would expect. The landscape is rocky and covered with snow, cold and rough like a Sith. The academy includes barracks, a library and a massive tower that houses the Sith Lord.
One particular student has stood out among the rest, Rance Lussk, an athletically built young man with flaming red hair. Few dared to approach him and those who had sparred with him not only lost but three had left the academy and one hung himself. For no apparent reason, Lussk challenges Wim Nickter to a duel. Nickter is humiliated by Lussk. Then, like the others, Nickter disappears.
The slightly reclusive Sith Lord in charge of this academy is Darth Scabrous. Rumor around campus is that the students who keep disappearing are ending up in the Sith Lord’s tower and being used for science experiments. Curiously, Nickter’s disappearance draws more attention than usual. Scopique, an older Sith-trainee, encourages Jura Ostrogoth to investigate their whereabouts and discover what is happening in Scabrous’ tower. Reluctantly, Jura agrees.
Darth Scabrous has come across information from Darth Drear, the founder of the academy on Odacer-Faustin. Scabrous wants to replicate a process that Drear discovered but was unable to complete. Part of that process requires a flower – a very particular, Force-sensitive flower known as a Murakami orchid. Obtaining a genuine Murakami, however, is difficult. Many bounty hunters have attempted to deliver the it but only one, a Whiphid named Tulkh, has found a real Murakami. In addition to being Force-sensitive, a Murakami requires a keeper to survive. In this case, the keeper is a Jedi named Hestizo “Zo” Trace.
Zo is interesting because she’s considered weak in the Force. Or perhaps, she failed her training at the Jedi Academy. In any case, Zo works in the Agricultural Corps utilizing her skill at communicating with plants. What surprised me is we don’t even meet Zo until we’re 38 pages into the book. Considering she is the primary character that just struck me as odd.
Scabrous obtains the orchid to complete his nefarious experiment. But of course, he must test it out and the first victim is Wim Nickter. At this point, Jura has made it into the tower, witnessing Nickter’s transformation. This is how the Sickness spreads, first Nickter then Jura and it only gets worse from there.
These things had transcended death. The power they held was beyond anything taught here at the academy. Before it, both Jedi and Sith were nothing, less than nothing, infinitesimal crumbs in the vast expanse of the universe. [pg.142]
Red Harvest is an interesting take on zombie plagues. I haven’t read Schreiber’s first book, Death Troopers, so I have no idea if the cause of the infection is similar or if his writing style is similar. In any case, Schreiber portrayed the Sith accurately and provided a unique glimpse into the Old Republic.
Although I enjoyed the book, I didn’t really feel bought into the story until about halfway through. I attribute that more to lack of known characters and not a deficiency in Schreiber’s writing skill. There a few points in the story where Zo all of a sudden uses some pretty cool Force powers. But since she’s not a Jedi Knight and clearly not very experienced in combat my reaction was more like, “Whaaaat?” For a zombie themed storyline it also had surprisingly little action. But overall, this is a solid addition to the Star Wars universe.